17 Pros and Cons of Living in California

Who wouldn’t want to pack up and move to the golden state? When you think of California, you may immediately think of sunny beaches, glowing golf courses, and beautiful homes with refreshing in-ground pools.

There are plenty of good reasons to live in California! However, there are also some downsides to residing in this seemingly perfect state. What you really want to know is: Is California a good state to live in? Let’s find out!

Here we will take a look at the top pros and cons of living in California. We want to help you make an informed decision about moving to California! Keep reading to find out if living in California is right for you.

Living in California: Is California a Good State to Live In?

An image showing the Santa Barbara coastline at sunset. It features a beautiful red, orange, and blue sunset, several palm trees and yachts floating in the ocean

We’ve all dreamed about saying goodbye to rainy midwest seasons or cold northern winters at some point in our lives. Many Americans see California as a solution to living a happy and fulfilled life.

Whether you’re chasing year-round sunshine, fame, better jobs, or happier communities, California might be the answer. Before making a huge move or uprooting your life, consider all the pros and cons of living in California. 

From financial costs, expenses, climate, people, jobs, community, housing, and even the stress of moving, there’s a lot to think about!

The Financial Cost of Living in California

While living in California has many benefits, perfect weather and friendly neighbors also come with a cost. For many Americans and foreigners considering relocating to the sunny state, it’s essential to consider the financial impact of living in California.

Because of the high quality of living, financial expenses, including the cost of living, property prices, and taxes, can be much higher than other states in the US.

Taxes

One of the downsides to living in California is the higher tax prices. In California, taxes are higher than average compared to the other US States.

As of 2019, the state of California issued a state-wide tax rate of 7.25%. Different jurisdictions also add district taxes that increase this overall tax rate. 

California state income tax rates are dependent on the resident’s amount of income and range from 1% to 12.3%. For the average household income rate for a couple, the tax bracket rate lands around 6% to 9%.

Living Expenses

Is it expensive to live in California? Short answer: Yes. 

Living expenses in California tend to be higher than in other US states. According to the Average Cost of Living Index in 2020, California cities are 38% higher than other US cities. 

Essential living expenses such as housing, groceries, health, utilities, transportation, and medical expenses, are above the average cost of living in other US cities. 

  • Groceries prices are 5% to 33% higher in California than in other major cities.
  • Transportation costs are 27% to 45% higher.

Other miscellaneous living expenses such as clothing, eating out, and self-care (hair cuts, nails, spas) are also 5% to 40% higher in California cities than other major US cities. 

Housing, Rental, and Property Prices

A photo showing Lombard street in San Francisco, one of the most expensive cities in California for real estate. The photo shows a steep hill with a winding road, flowerbeds, and several beautiful old houses

Are you thinking of renting a house or apartment in California? You may want to think again after seeing the high cost of renting a property in California.

The average monthly rental prices for apartments in California:

  • Studio Apartment: $1,156.00
  • 1 Bedroom: $1,358.00
  • 2 Bedroom: $1,723.00
  • 3 Bedroom: $2,375.00

If purchasing real estate or housing property is within your realm of possibility, make sure you look at the costs of buying a house in California. Property prices tend to be higher than other states in the US.

For example, in Los Angeles County, the price of properties is relatively high. Before committing to a home purchase in California, be sure that you are well informed on the additional costs such as property taxes, yearly resident taxes, income tax, and living and transportation fees. 

Property prices in California are higher depending on the city you choose to reside in. Here is an example of the average property prices in major urban cities versus smaller, residential cities:

Average cost of Buying a House in California in 2020: 

  • San Francisco = $1,297,511
  • Los Angeles = $816,438
  • San Diego = $800,746
  • Sacramento = $440,447
  • Bakersfield = $330,317

Can I Afford to Live in California?

The good news about California residents’ financial aspects is that the average income rate is higher than in many other states. This means that although the cost of living, taxes, and housing costs can seem unrealistic, you will also, statistically,  have a better chance of finding a higher-paying job.

Although property rental and purchase prices are high, if you have a roommate (or two) lined up, rental costs can become significantly more affordable. Likewise, if you live in a two-income household through marriage or common law, splitting the costs can be more realistic than doing it alone!

While some of the central hub cities in California such as Los Angeles do require a higher than average cost of living, there are several cities with much more reasonable living costs:

California cities with lower than the average cost of living for purchases, expenses, and rental prices:

  • Oxnard – This seaside city west of LA offers many of the big city’s ocean benefits with a much lower price tag.
  • Simi Valley – This landlocked community is highly residential and only 40 miles from LA, making it the perfect place for young families to settle in at a lower cost.
  • Camarillo – A residential area in Ventura County is an up-and-coming location for people looking for the California lifestyle without the major city prices.

Related: Is Cancun Better Than Puerto Vallarta?

The Benefits of Living in California – Pros

A photograph taken in Yosemite national park, California showing a large waterfall coming down a mountain, an expansive creek, large pine trees and grasslands
  1. Strong Environmental Regulations – The state of California has made a significant commitment to actions towards regulating recycling and climate change awareness. Although this state-wide project comes with a tax cost to residents, the benefits are peace of mind knowing that your government is as concerned about the planet’s future as you are.
  1. Higher Average Salary – While the average cost of living and property prices are significantly higher in California than in other US cities, there is also the potential for higher than average salary costs. With several major cities sitting in the CA borders, there are many possibilities to become part of major companies and industries offering competitive salaries that can help offset the higher cost of living in California. 
  1. Better Quality of Living – Overall, living in California is a positive experience for most. If you’re willing to deal with the higher costs of living and drop a few extra 100ks on a house, then the golden state lifestyle exceeds that of many other places in the world.

    With beautiful beaches, pristine parks and hiking, gorgeous homes, a people-focused government, diverse culture, and population – the quality of living outweighs the costs for many Americans who enjoy living in CA. 
  1. Year-round sunny climate – Need we say more? If you’re tired of living with brutal winters and seemingly endless rainy seasons, the year-round sunshine of CA can sound highly appealing. There are so many reasons that year-round warm weather is attractive.

    It means not having to plan your days around the forecast for those who enjoy being outdoors – you can pretty much assume that the sun will be there. If your job or career involves being outside, there’s no better place to spend your days. 
  1. Health Benefits – What can sunshine and saltwater do for your overall health? A lot! The health benefits of living in a warmer climate are pretty extensive. For people with respiratory issues or chronic illness, the warmer temperatures can help alleviate common symptoms.

    Besides physical benefits, living in a positive environment with pleasant weather also plays a big part in mental health. California residents are less likely to suffer from depression and anxiety than other states, and CA does not even make it into the top 8 US cities for depression rates! 
  1. Business Potential – California is the hub of many start-up companies that make huge waves in the business and tech industries. Do you have an innovative and imaginative idea for a start-up company? California may be the perfect place to turn your vision into a reality. 
  1. History and Culture – While California is thought of as an innovative, progressive, and forward-thinking state, there’s also a history rich in culture and stories. California is home to American entertainment and has been the home of many famous musicians, inventors, politicians, and performers.

    You’ll find museums, schools, art galleries, architecture, and music venues that will rival any European destinations in major California cities. 
  1. Outdoor Recreation – If hiking, biking, surfing, longboarding, rollerblading, or running are your thing, the state of California offers a wide range of outdoor recreational parks and facilities. Living close to the ocean means family beach days or catching a few waves before work. The many national parks also offer hiking enthusiasts endless possibilities to test their incline skills. If you love outdoor activities, California has it all.
  1. Entertainment Industry – It’s show biz! Americans with dreams of acting on the big screen or finding an agent to manage their talent often flock to major cities in California. L.A. is the unofficial headquarters for American talent and film. For movie buffs, the town also offers a rich history dating back to the golden era of American cinema. 
  1. Tolerance and Diversity – In contrast to other southern US states, California is known for being tolerant and open-minded. With a solid liberal population and a younger population flocking to the major cities, California offers many diverse communities for people of all ages, genders, orientations, and ethnicities.

    Whether you identify as a BIPOC, LGBTQ2+, or other often marginalized communities, you’re sure to find a safe place to call home in the state of CA.

The Downside to Living in California – Cons

  1. High Cost of Living – As stated in detail above, the golden state, unfortunately, boasts a higher than average cost of living compared to other US states. Everything will cost you just a little more in CA, from housing costs to miscellaneous expenses like haircuts and clothing.

    An excellent way to prepare for these increased costs is to adjust your lifestyle and create a realistic budget for all fees, including unexpected medical bills and travel expenses.
  1. Pollution – Unfortunately, the state of California is suffering from an epidemic of pollution. Thanks to too many cars in cities like LA and San Francisco, there is an issue with the pollution that has been building for decades.

    Thankfully, the CA government is taking huge strides to combat this issue with better public transportation, carpooling, and climate change initiatives to slow human-made pollution symptoms.
  1. Overpopulation – As you’re thinking about the pros and cons of living in California, so were many people before you! Yes, some cities in California are considered overpopulated. Thus, housing becomes an issue along with schooling, transportation, pollution, and many other factors. While California is a great place to live – it may be a little too great!
  1. Expensive Schooling – Can you put a price on a good education? Well, yes. Costs for private grade schools in California tend to be quite expensive, putting a strain on young families with multiple children. As for Universities, prices for the average college student in CA can exceed $20,000 in tuition fees. If you’re planning on studying in CA and aren’t counting on scholarships, expect significant student debt.
  1. Higher taxes – As mentioned above, government taxes and property taxes in California are higher than in other US states. This is in part thanks to the higher quality of living that comes at a cost. It is also due to overpopulation and the quality of medical institutions, schools, and recreation. 
  1. Below Average Transportation Services – One big “con” to living in California is that public transportation is slightly below par. California cities are connected by buses, ferries, trains, and subways. However, many California residents choose to drive themselves around by car, avoiding the slow and costly public transportation systems.

    Because of this, there are many more cars on the roads in cities like LA, San Diego, and San Francisco than necessary, often causing traffic and potential accidents. 
  1. Unpredictable Weather – Yes, you can expect sunshine and pleasant weather 99% of the time in California. This is one of the biggest reasons that Americans flock to the coast! Unfortunately, living on the ocean also comes with unpredictable climate and weather situations.

    Coastal cities are a common location for hurricanes which can cause destruction to property and even take lives. Living in California means being prepared for potential natural disasters such as storms, hurricanes, tsunamis, and flooding. 

Final Thoughts on Living in California

While living in California can significantly increase your cost of living and expenses, there are also many aspects of Californian life that make the higher cost worth the price.

Year-round sunshine, friendly neighbors, and a lively community are all excellent reasons to move to CA. If you’re still wondering if California is a good state to live in? We think you already know the answer!

The cost of living in California is slightly higher than in other states because of the higher quality of living. If you’re set on making the move, consider adjusting your lifestyle to accommodate the increased costs or seek higher-paying jobs.

Living in California offers a great lifestyle that can benefit your wellbeing, health, and happiness. You only live once; why not do it in California!

Related: Pros and Cons of Living in Hawaii